Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hero worship.

One of my favorite lines in all of literature comes from the great (and unknown) Mark Harris. If this sentence intrigues you and you want to read a bit of Harris, I'd suggest you pick up either "Bang the Drum Slowly," his most famous work, or "Wake Up, Stupid," his funniest.

In any event, the line I love is from the aforementioned "Bang the Drum Slowly." It is "the only hero is the man without heroes." (As an aside, my favorite line of all is from another 'baseball writer,' Ring Lardner. It is: "'Shut up,' he explained.")

I think about Harris' line in the wake of the stupidity from the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch who does his best to discriminate against customers who might be "adipose endowed."

I don't really give a rat's ass about the CEO of Abercrombie. What absolutely baffles me is people who are emblazoned with brand names like walking billboards.

This, to me, is the marketing equivalent of hero worship. A dangerous practice, because most heroes have feet of clay.

When I was 11, the New York Mets, after a decade of fumbling mediocrity emerged as the winner of the World Series. Somehow my father got tickets to the game in which the Mets clinched the pennant by beating the Atlanta Braves.

At the end of the game, some large portion of the 50,000 people in attendance stormed the field at Shea Stadium and ripped the turf as souvenirs. I ran onto the field and was taking it all in and somehow in my youthful oblivion, wandered almost directly into the Braves' dugout.

There sat, a hero, Hank Aaron sitting dejectedly and taking long drags on a cigarette.

I remember thinking "How could a great like Aaron smoke cigarettes."

That was my first lesson in seeing "heroes" as just people with superior skills.

I think the same can be applied to Abercrombie & Fitch.

They're just clothes, people. They're sold by pricks here. And made by near-slaves in Asia.

If you use them to define you, you're a tool.


Anonymous said...

Wearing a label is unavoidable but the conspicuously "status seeking" ones are truly offensive: My bette noire: the people who wear Prada. Thats how a fool parts with $$$$.

Tore Claesson said...

After ten days in China, unable to access your blog, yep, it's blocked in China, I am glad to be back.

Well, I'm in Hongkong actually, which although now part of China is not actually like the rest to China. She is not paranoid about anything other than China's paranoia.

I was indeed visiting some factories working for western companies. Mostly the workers didn't ever smile or seemed to communicate with each other. But that could be because they shut up when they saw a gweilo like me walking around.

However, the more affluent aspire to all the brands you find in Short Hills Malls and on Fifth avenue. Maybe even more so than any other people on this globe. Gucci, Prada, Ferragami and just about every upmarket brand all have huge, really huge, stores in Chengdu, which is a so called second tier city.
Actually every big city in China is flooded with European and American luxury brands costing even more than in New York. And then they have a multitude of pretend brands that are all local brands, but have French, Italian, German and English names.

It's surreal.

The street are packed with Mrecedeses, Audis, BMWs and Porches. They seem to vastly outnumber Chinese brands. And we're talking about traffic jams that goes on for miles and hours. Well, I could go on. Glad to be able to read your blog again. T.

KL said...

Anonymous - wearing a label ON THE OUTSIDE of your clothes is completely avoidable, which I think was the point.

terrylev said...

I attended a fascinating debate last night between some terrific writers - historian William Dalrymple; journalist and military historian Max Hastings; economist Sylvia Nasar; and writer and essayist Pankaj Mishra. THe topic was: The rule of the West is over. On the way in the audience was asked to vote and did so 53:47 in favour of the proposition. On the way out they voted again: 30:70 - a complete reversal. Whilst everyone agreed China's economy would be bigger, they also agreed that China doesn't have Levi 501's and Apple iPhones. Ideas rule the world and people love identifying themselves with things that have cachet. It's why we work.